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Fencing: Meinhardt fences for United States in Paris

Mike Todisco | Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Junior fencer Gerek Meindhart became a part of national and school history earlier this month when he earned the bronze medal in the Individual Men’s Foil competition at the World Championships in Paris, the first United States fencer to ever medal in the event.

Quite simply, the San Francisco native is the best in the U.S. at what he does.

Irish foil coach Gia Kvaratskhelia put the importance of Meindhart’s accomplishment into context.

“This is incredible not only for Notre Dame, but for the United States Fencing Association,” he said. “Gerek set the precedent for what can be done for a United States athlete. Ten years ago, if a U.S. athlete had a top-16 finish, it was a magnificent achievement. Gerek showed what is attainable. This is real now. The next generations now see what is possible.”

Meindhart is blazing a path for United States fencing that was once thought to be impossible. For him, his result from Paris is important as it helps to establish United States fencing as a legitimate threat in international competitions.

“It was a great feeling to represent the United States like that,” Meindhart said. “It was huge for us because we really made the presence of United States fencing felt at the competition.”

He said his accomplishment was a result of his fortitude and long hours he spent training.

“This is something that you work for all year,” Meindhart said. “Everything was working for me at the World Championships. This will be a boost of confidence for me, and it shows that all my hard work is paying off.”

Meindhart said he sees his medal as a sign of his victory not only on a personal level but as something to also be celebrated with coaches, friends and families.

“It meant a lot to represent both Coach Gia [Kvaratskhelia] and my coach at home,” Meindhart said. “Afterward, I received so much support and positive feedback from all the people back home, athletes I had trained with and even from older fencers.”

Kvaratskhelia said Meindhart’s medal will show itself as crucial for Notre Dame fencing in years to come.

“It is really important that a kid came here and in his third year of being here, his result hadn’t decreased or leveled out, but it is actually getting better,” he said. “Because of all the work at school, fencers usually level off, so for future recruiting it will be great to show that if you come here your fencing performances can excel.”

This strong finish places Meindhart among the leading foilists to represent the United States at the 2012 Olympics in London. He participated in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 before arriving at school. After this season, he will be taking next year off from school to return to San Francisco in order to focus on his training and make a stronger showing in London.

“When I fenced in Beijing in 2008, the thrill was just to qualify, and there were really no expectations, as I was the youngest by five years,” Meindhart said. “This time around, the result is everything.”